Soren looking at his tablet, with the screen featuring a Spotify playlist with songs like “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars and “Love yourself” by Justin Bieber.

Learning English is not only about face-to-face lessons, old textbooks, and traditional grammar exercises.

If you're trying to increase your language skills but struggling to find a fun and exciting way to improve your English, why not do it through music?

Whether you're a fan of pop, rock, or hip-hop, countless songs can help you take your English skills to the next level. In this article, we'll explore some of the best songs you can use to improve your vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.

So, put on your headphones, and get ready to rock out – you're about to embark on a super exciting journey toward English fluency!

How to Learn the Language With English Songs

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced language learner, you can use these strategies to make learning a new language with English songs a fun and rewarding experience.

Both the figurative and poetic language you can find in English songs is great for English learners.

Let's get started!

Listen to All the Lyrics

When listening to a song you like, pay attention to the lyrics and try to understand their meaning to boost your listening skills. You can look up unfamiliar words or phrases and try to interpret the message of the song.

If you're learning the language as a beginner, try to start with an English song that has clear, easy-to-understand lyrics. Select a genre, such as rock or pop music, that you enjoy listening to, with lyrics that are not too complex.

Soren and Iggy speaking, he says “I prefer pop” while Iggy says “I love rock!”

Some tips for using song lyrics to increase your English skills:

  • Listen to the song several times to get a feel for the song and familiarize yourself with the melody.
  • Print out the lyrics or write them down by hand, and then listen to the song while reading the lyrics. This will help you connect the words you hear to the words you read.
  • Look up any unfamiliar words or phrases in a dictionary. If there are words or phrases that you don't understand, look them up in a dictionary or online. Make sure you understand the meaning of new vocabulary words in the context of the song.
  • Practice singing along with the song once you're comfortable with the lyrics! In addition to being fun, signing will help you practice your pronunciation and intonation.

Use Music Videos

Many songs come with a video, which is great for practicing. For example, you can watch the music video without looking at the lyrics or subtitles and try to understand as much as you can.

And don't forget to pay attention to the visual elements in the video itself, such as the setting, the characters speaking, and the storyline. With the help of these visual cues, it will be much easier to understand what the song is about.

If you wish to take your learning process one step further, after watching the music video, write a summary or review of what you saw and heard. This can help you practice your writing skills and reflect on what you learned, making the whole experience a lot more memorable.

A Practical Example

Let's take "Payphone" as an example. This is an amazing song by Maroon 5, with a highly entertaining video that tells the story of a man who is heartbroken after a failed relationship. He reflects on the good times they shared and wonders where it all went wrong.

Soren at a payphone in the middle of the street.

The title "Payphone" refers to a public phone booth, which the man uses to try to call his ex-girlfriend in a desperate attempt to reconnect with her. Many of the lyrics are highlighted on screen, making it easier to understand what the song is about.

Just bear in mind that the song's quick pace and complex lyrics make it suitable for high intermediate learners instead of beginners.

Learn the Target Culture

Music is often a reflection of a particular culture, so learning about the cultural context of a song is crucial to truly understanding it.

You’ll also be able to learn about history and traditions. For example, the song "Zombie" by The Cranberries can help you understand the political situation in Ireland in the 1990s.

The lyrics of Zombie were written by the band's lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan, in response to the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, England, which killed two children and injured more than 50 people. The song is a powerful critique of the violence and political conflict that plagued Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.

The themes and messages of songs can provide insight into the cultural values and beliefs of a society. For example, a song about love and family can tell you a lot about how those things are valued in that particular culture.

By using music as a tool for learning about the target culture of a language, you can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people, history, and traditions of the region.

Learn Colloquialisms

Songs are also a great way to learn slang, idioms, and other colloquialisms using real-life materials. You'll pick up on these language features and become more familiar with the way people actually speak using materials that motivate you.

One good example for advanced learners is "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The chorus is full of colloquialisms, where Macklemore boasts about finding great bargains at a thrift store. For example, he raps, "I'm gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pock't" (meaning he's going to buy second-hand clothes with only twenty dollars).

Discover New Music

Finally, don't limit yourself to a single genre of music. Explore different types of music and discover new artists. This can expose you to a variety of language and cultural perspectives.

By using these strategies, you can make learning English with music a fun and effective way to improve your language skills.

The Best Songs to Learn English

From learning vocabulary to tightening your knowledge of grammar rules, using English music to learn the language is a great idea to stay motivated at all times.

For example, "Will you be there" by Michael Jackson is a great song to learn the future tense and sentence structure (how to form questions). Meanwhile, "Paradise" by Coldplay is the perfect song to learn the past tense.

So, here are some other cool pop songs you can use to increase your English language skills:

"Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber

The lyrics of "Love Yourself" describe a relationship that has ended badly. Bieber sings about a former lover who was selfish and didn't treat him well, but who is now trying to come back into his life.

The chorus of the song repeats the phrase "you should go and love yourself," which is a direct message to the ex-lover to take responsibility for their actions and move on. It's a great piece to learn new vocabulary about love and relationships.

"Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars

The song's catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics struck a chord with audiences worldwide, and it became a commercial and critical success.

"Just the Way You Are" won a Grammy Award back in 2011 and has become one of Bruno Mars' signature songs. It has simple lyrics that make it suitable for beginners who love pop music.

"Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran

The song's lyrics describe the physical attraction between two people and their subsequent romantic encounters. Sheeran sings about meeting a woman in a bar and being immediately drawn to her, describing her body and physical features in detail.

He sings lines like "Girl, you know I want your love. Your love was handmade for somebody like me" and "I'm in love with your body," so this is another song you can use to acquire new vocabulary and expressions about love and attraction.

"Someone Like You" by Adele

Someone Like You is a poignant and heartfelt ballad that captures the pain of a breakup and the bittersweet feeling of moving on. Its emotional resonance and powerful vocal performance have made it one of Adele's most beloved songs.

 Iggy with a wig, looking like Adele, standing with a microphone and singing.

The song's emotional and raw lyrics, coupled with Adele's powerful and soulful vocals, struck a chord with audiences around the world, making it a commercial and critical success. The song topped the charts in several countries, including the US and UK, and won numerous awards, including a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance.

"Counting Stars" by OneRepublic

The song's lyrics describe the struggle to achieve success and happiness in life, and the realization that material possessions and wealth are not the keys to true happiness. OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder sings lines like "Lately, I've been losing sleep, dreaming about the things that we could be" and "Take that money, watch it burn, sink in the river, the lessons are learnt."

The chorus of the song, with its catchy melody and upbeat rhythm, is particularly memorable, with Tedder singing "Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly." The overall message of the song is one of hope and determination, urging listeners to follow their dreams and not get caught up in the pursuit of money and material possessions.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

This is one of the most famous songs ever. According to Queen's lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody" were inspired by his personal experiences and emotions.

The song reflects Mercury's struggle with his sexuality and his fear of rejection and isolation. The song's opening lines, "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality," are thought to reflect Mercury's own feelings of confusion and disorientation.

The Bottom Line

Soren listening to music at home, with headphones, singing

All in all, learning English can be time-consuming and requires a lot of patience and motivation. However, with the right tools and resources, like a language-learning app, you'll not only learn English much faster but also in a more entertaining way!

A catchy song like "I Will Always Love You" can help you learn as much English as any traditional textbook would. So, grab your smartphone, turn on Spotify, and start crafting your English playlist!

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Daniela brings over a decade of expertise as a university-level ESL instructor, guiding students from diverse global backgrounds in learning both English and Spanish languages. Beyond her pedagogical pursuits, Daniela's passions extend to writing, painting, and cooking delicious Argentinian dishes. With boundless enthusiasm, she endeavors to impart her wealth of knowledge on languages and cultures, inviting you to learn more!